Crash Bag, Vol. 2: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Well, that was unexpected. At the beginning of the season, do baseball players consciously plan on playing every day? Do elementary school kids decide in September that they’re going to have 100% attendance that year? I foolishly thought I would start my own Baumann/Ripken streak and rattle off weekly Crashbags. Hey, maybe I still can. But it’s not as easy as running in the ball from the 1-yard line on second down with Marshawn Lynch.

Baseball season is currently wiping the sleep out of its eyes and deciding whether to hit snooze again, or maybe think about getting out of bed. There’s a tastefully small amount of the offseason left. The Best Shape of His Life stories are stacking up, and the stack is getting bigger each day. Before you know it, it’ll be time to hit the back fields in Clearwater. So let’s get to work.

* googles the Wizard’s Key * Hey, cool:

A Fairy’s Dearest wish is to be a wizard, but she’s unwilling to spend the time needed to learn the trade. She steals a magical key from the wizard’s house, hoping she can learn by herself. She flies through a portal to another dimension, where she is chased across the mountains by dragons and loses the key. Home again, she is discovered by the wizard who commands her to find the key within three days. She must recruit an outcast jokester ogre who desires a fun adventure and a depressed unicorn who hopes to escape exile into the cold, dank

This seems like a question I should answer after an adult beverage or three. Depressed unicorn? No? No. Nope. Besides, the Amaro jokes are all old and tired and just want to go to Wendy’s for lunch, watch some daytime TV, and fall asleep on the couch.

Um, how does 69 wins sound? Nice. As I mentioned last time, I have zero faith in the 2015 team being competitive. That’s not even good old Philadelphia pessimism talking, that’s just reality. So from that perspective, the team seems likely to … crash and … burn? Perhaps in an alley, or a bag of some kind? Yeah, they’re gonna be bad. But as much as I don’t look forward to watching the team sputter its way to another last-place finish, I am excited to watch some of the individual players to see how they fit on the next contending Phillies team. It’s a combination of drinking the prospect Kool Aid and being a homer and being desperate for something to cling to in this cold, uncaring, tiny corner of the galaxy, but I’m really looking forward to watching Maikel Franco and Aaron Nola this year.

December 28, 2014 10:52 PM

“Suggestion for the next crash bag:

Marlon Byrd and Cliff Lee (unless he pitches 200 innings) will be free agents after this season. This will free up over $30+mil in salary. Ryan Howard and Chooch will free up another $30+mil in ’16. While the team is in rebuild-mode, what are the chances the Phils use a decent portion of this money on free agents? Assuming there will be dwindling ticket-sales, will management pull in the reins on spending this money or are we in the class of LA, NY, Bos franchises that will spend money each year regardless?”

I’ll answer the second part of the question first: money is not an issue for this team. The Philadelphia market is on par with, or perhaps a step below, those other markets. But the franchise can spend more or less what it wants to spend, when it wants to spend.

Next winter, let’s say David Price, Johnny Cueto, Jeff Samardzija, and Jordan Zimmermann are all free agents, and the Phillies have a rotation of Cole Hamels, Aaron Nola, and a bunch of filler. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to go hard after one of those guys with Cliff Lee’s money and say something like “we know we’re not going to be that good in 2016, but we’ve got these kids up here and more on the way, and we’ll give you an extra guaranteed year plus an extra $2 million a year if you sign here.” And that probably won’t work. And they’ll need to go after someone like Jason Heyward or Justin Upton, too.

Before I say anything, I would be remiss if I didn’t direct you to one of the best articles produced on this site in 2014, Michael Baumann’s Cole Hamels trade rant from December. It’s fantastic, and I agree with Baumann. There’s no real rush to trade Colbert unless the Broad Street ramp (or Packer Avenue, whatever) gets clogged up with a truckload of top prospects. Given how stingy many teams seem to be with their best prospects, and rightfully so, and given how favorable Hamels’ contract is in the context of recent pitcher contracts, the Phillies seem unlikely to deal Hollywood. Hey, maybe at the trade deadline someone wants to get crazy and offer the ideal package. Maybe San Diego somehow is just competitive enough and A.J. Preller completely loses his mind and offers Austin Hedges, Matt Wisler, and Hunter Renfroe. Maybe Boston backtracks from EVERY SINGLE INDICATION they’ve given and offers Blake Swihart, Henry Owens, and Mookie Betts. If something like that happens, you can mothball your #35 jersey. Otherwise, I think Cole’s sticking around, and if he doesn’t get traded at the deadline this summer, I think it greatly decreases the likelihood that he’s traded at all. 

Actually, I really like what’s happening in the AL Central. After the slaphappy Royals (literally) stole their way into the World Series, the other teams in the division probably had a real gut-check moment. Like, the Royals? Really, the Royals? I love what the White Sox did this offseason; I really like Cleveland’s young arms, though I think Michael Brantley is going to regress; Detroit will be very competitive all year; and the Twins well, um … hey did I mention the White Sox look good? I don’t think the Royals are going to be very good this year, unfortunately.

See above, but look: you have to have your eyes open with this club. It’s going to be really hard to watch from day to day without getting depressed. But the worst is behind us, and every day that passes is one less day with Ryan Howard’s contract on the books. Look on the bright side, we could be paying Max Scherzer for the next FOURTEEN years.

The team is bad, and the franchise has a long history of bad teams. But with the current ownership group, the incoming cable TV money, and the new park (oh my God shut up it’s not 11 years old already), the Phillies are only bad temporarily. Growing up with this franchise in the mid-80s and the 90s, there was little to no hope. The teams were awful and except for 1993 there was nothing even close to success. The ballpark stunk. Free agents didn’t want to come here. Now, the franchise has money (and has shown a great willingness to spend it) and championship credibility.

Last season, I turned the corner from being totally beaten down by this team to approaching excitement and happiness, even. Maybe 2015 will be as bad as 2014, but probably not, because at least now there’s a plan, and hope, and some bright stars on the horizon. Taking a long view is a natural reflection of a sport that is timeless – from a cultural and historical standpoint of course, but also, because the game itself is without time.

Think about all the intriguing little storylines we have coming up. Is Cliff Lee’s elbow healthy? Will Cole Hamels be traded, and if so, when, where, and for what? Who’s the Opening Day third baseman, and who’s starting there on June 1? Can Dominic Brown recover? Does Chase Utley have one more good year in the sun? Can Grady Sizemore last 400 at bats? Will Maikel Franco hit? What does Chad Billingsley have left? Will Jonathan Papelbon be traded? What about Ben Revere? Can Jake Diekman take the next step? When does Aaron Nola make his debut?

There’s more than enough going on here, just two weeks before pitchers and catchers report, to get excited for baseball again. So don’t worry about the Phillies contending, because they won’t do that in 2015. But there’s a lot to watch for this season, and in a couple of years when the Gillick-Amaro plan really comes together, you might have enough Philly guilt in you to convince yourself that you were happy to have gone through these bad seasons.

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  1. Steve

    February 04, 2015 08:45 AM

    Do you think we will make a push for Moncada, or maybe one of the next tier Cubans infielders now that they are, or will be cleared very soon.

    • bubba0101

      February 04, 2015 11:05 AM

      I know you’re not asking me but… I dont think theyll go after Moncada. I think they would have if he were available mid summer which would have put the yanks/sox out of the running. I think the phils dragged their feet on Moncada and havent set themselves up to court him. That being said, hes not the only solid Cuban that is going to be on the market. I could see the phils going after Andy Ibanez pretty strongly but signing any of these guys would put them over the international bonus limit which would prevent them from signing anyone big next year (I think). They may just stay relatively silent this year and try to make a few big international signings next year when we are turning the corner as far as shedding old salary and promoting prospects to the bigs.

      • Bill

        February 05, 2015 12:29 PM

        Agree. I don’t think the Phillies will go after 1 specific player rather than be able to sign multiple players and replenish the farm. It would actually make more sense to suffer future international pool limitations if they thought this year’s crop was exceptional and went over the limit inking as many of the top 20 as possible.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      February 04, 2015 11:41 AM

      I don’t see it happening, sorry. I think the team you see now is basically what you’re going to see on Opening Day, barring a Hamels trade.

      • Steve

        February 04, 2015 09:26 PM

        Ouch, im not even looking for moncada for 2015, i dont care that we will be terrible. He would be nice for the next 10 yrs though.

    • Adam Dembowitz

      February 04, 2015 01:14 PM

      You’ve taken me down a peg. A whole peg! I consider myself a pretty big Simpsons nerd, and that reference didn’t even register with me.

      There was a LOT to choose from when I googled that phrase, and I’m a sucker for literary references, so here we are.

      • MisterZoomer

        February 04, 2015 03:27 PM

        I thought you original response was perfectly cromulent, just adding my two cents.

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